Why are female bodies so threatening to religious people? I often wonder what all the vicious hatred of female nudity is all about. Part of my intention today is to look at a possible cause for the religious vitriol in the wake of the FEMEN protests.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, so please indulge me.
For starters, humans are equipped with “desire software.” Human bodies have evolved to trigger this software. Women’s bodies, and breasts specifically, directly trigger this software – a part of the reward processing system in the brain that gets activated when we see breasts.
Apropos of this, research shows that breasts are the most popular body part in sexual searches on the Internet in almost every country.
This is because breasts represent powerful visual cues to the brain that trigger strong feelings in the body. As any practicing celibate can tell you, strong feelings and desires rapidly pull us out of our “religious” revelry. Especially if we are afraid of our sexual feelings – which religious thinking tends to promote.
In standard religious mythology, sex is bad. Therefore it follows that sexual feelings are bad.
Which leads us to the rage against FEMEN. The basic argument is that naked breasts cause a shame on entire religions and whole families. But this is where it gets really interesting. Shame is something that is caused from our beliefs about breasts – not breasts themselves. And all beliefs are made up.
So consider this. Suppose our cultural belief is that bare breasts holy and are to be celebrated and honored with respect whenever they are seen in public. Suppose our culture believes that sexual feelings and sexual energy are to be celebrated too! Then the whole – FEMEN movement would actually be an honor to religion and families. Bare breasts would be considered a celebration of life.
That’s an equally possible interpretation of breasts. In fact, there’s an infinite number of ways to interpret and believe about nudity. What we are stuck with, however, is beliefs that, at their core, hate women. Beliefs that see sex as bad and women as evil. Superstitious beliefs that have religious people believing that women can “steal” their power. Beliefs that are so negatively inculcated into our psyche that it’s almost impossible to extract ourselves. Especially when it comes to religious thought. And common law extends out of religious, moral law. So in that sense, our cultural laws about female nudity remain way out of touch.
Fortunately, for all cultures, morality is a flexible and changing thing. It adjusts to the realities and developments of the times we live in. It has to. Even those ultra conservative folks, who still believe that western society is evil, use cell phones, video cameras and web pages to get their messages across. And that is what I call called paradox. Paradox represents the polar opposite of black and white, good and evil thinking.
So to summarize, breasts are neither good nor evil. They simply are. And, they are a function of evolution. The process of evolution selected for female apes with less body hair and fatty protrusions on their fronts and behinds.
Regardless of what our emotional beliefs are about breasts, the reality is that breasts mean nothing more than what we and the culture we were raised in say they mean. And someday, I trust, culture will embrace a woman’s body completely, instead of shaming it, fearing it, and hating it.
From fatty protrusions we call breasts to fatty protrusions we call asses, eventually we have to step out of the dark ages and into the reality that human apes have bodies and these bodies have sex. In fact, they are made for sex. We would not exist without sex. And none of these things are inherently good or bad. They just are. We are the ones who add the emotional meaning to what is.